Sex and Housework: Military Style


Friday night, 8 p.m. By some temporal miracle, you’ve gotten the family fed, the little ones in bed – victory! – and you haven’t yet fallen asleep face-first into the dishes. You’re amazing. And there’s still miles to go. You’re dragging yourself to the washing machine to pull out that last load of sheets — the ones you plan to sleep on tonight, because somehow those are always the last thing in — when your dear, sweet, beloved other half comes tiptoeing around the corner. Arms out, flirting, he’s moving in for a little frisky Friday foray.

You see it coming before he even gets close. You do that stiff-backed thing, spine and shoulders sending off loud, flashing “Really. I’m *still* working” signals, but Feely Dan is clueless. He’s a seventh grade Cory to your Topanga. He’s an 18-year-old boy who’s still shocked you agreed to go to the prom with him. He’s got his game all the way on. He’s whispering sweet nothings. He’s not noticing the mess on the table, the pile of dishes from dinner, or the curious stain you’re currently scrubbing. He’s only got eyes for you.

You. The one still cleaning.

It’s happened to all of us. We’re either fixing dinner, doing the laundry, washing the dishes, or just doing one of the other zillion household tasks that pile up innocuously during the week and then hit you like a mack truck as soon as you have a free minute. And it all comes back to the age-old question: How do you balance an ever-growing to-do list, your personal life, family life, military life, housework, *and* sex?

I take comfort that even Achilles’ girlfriend probably had to deal with the problem, but it’s an all too familiar one, sometimes. It’s not that I don’t love you, or want you, it’s just that I’m still cleaning. I joked about this with friends at breakfast the other day, and I not-so-facetiously suggested that I’d be a lot more likely to hop in the bed at the drop of a dime if someone else had would throw all those cammies in the washer.

Really, that would go a long way in steaming up the house.

Study after study tells us that household chores and sex rank right up there with faithfulness on the list of things that are most important to the success of a marriage. And if the uniforms piled up in the corner are any evidence, housework might be the most immediate, smelly concern.

The math is pretty simple. The research shows that the more housework a husband does, the happier his wife. That’s science’s way of saying “Honey, when you do your own laundry, and I’m not left trying to bat your hand away while pulling out yet another missing sock from under this pile of dirty clothes from the field, I’m more likely to smile at you sweetly when you give me that look. Not scowl and give you the evil eye.”

To put it bluntly: honey, let me introduce you to the mop. You’re about to be best friends.

In our house, we try to walk a fine line between spice and sweeping by making sure everything’s split down the middle. I do my laundry; my husband does his. We share the rest of the chores (even cooking dinner!) fifty-fifty, and it works pretty well. (I should note that I’m often told how lucky I am that we split our domestic responsibilities so evenly. It’s really not luck, though. It’s sheer determination. I will let those cammies sit there unwashed and ripe with funk until it’s time to move them outside where they can rot properly until they’re cleaned. And anyway, before it comes to that, my husband sees the grace provided by that amazing domestic miracle, ye olde washing machine, and he’ll throw in some mopping and dusting, too, for good measure.)

But splitting all the household chores isn’t easy, not even in our house. We can be honest that most of us live in homes where the adults in the house have divergent views of what “sparkling clean” is. And for many of us, that means calling it a fifty-fifty split when it’s more like fifty-fifty nominal sharing and a 67-33 actual split. It might be 2012, but women are still doing twice as much housework as men.

Back at a breakfast date with my girlfriends, we pondered the eternal puzzle: How do we balance these things and make it work? One friend suggested sexy outfits for housework. I suggested hiring a maid. The kind without sexy outfits, if we’re being picky. But I also assume I’m getting a maid the day I win the lottery, so we’ll see how that goes. The third shrugged her shoulders and we all laughed, because the truth is, no matter what the rhythm is in your house, it’s *still* an ongoing problem.

How do you navigate the calls of house, home and honey? Do you manage a split, or are you totally in charge? If you are, incidentally, don’t worry: apparently you’re rocking a great sex life, too. Women who say they do more housework then their spouses also report having a more active sex life than their peers. I’m pretty sure this just means that honesty is the best policy, because even I can admit that I gave up and threw some green t-shirts into the wash today. But it was an isolated incident, I swear.

What are your secrets for chores and housework? Take our poll and let us know your style — and check out the results, also below.

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About the Author

Raleigh Duttweiler
Raleigh Duttweiler is a writer and social media expert living just outside the gates of MacDill in sunny Saint Petersburg, Florida. A Marine Corps wife, she has navigated the stress of Active Duty moves, trainings, and deployments, and now that her family has transitioned to the Reserves, she's experiencing the "weekend warrior" side of military life. (NB: It's not quite as part-time as advertised.) When not writing about benefits and military families, Raleigh posts here about truly life-altering, important issues like What Not to Wear to a Military Ball (visible thongs), Military Halloween Costumes We Love to Hate (ones that generally resemble both military uniforms AND thongs), and how to pack awesome care packages. She is passionate about spouse employment, higher education, and helping families navigate the often-bumpy transition back into civilian life. Raleigh also manages the SpouseBUZZ and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest pages, so be sure to say hi!
  • Guest

    We both work. I work more hours than he does, so he does most of the housework (cooking, dishes,etc). Being in the military isn’t an excuse to not pull your freight. That said, I do all the repairs and lawn care.

    • I couldn’t have said it better myself: “Being in the military isn’t an excuse to not pull your freight.” Even a hero has to get their dirty clothes cleaned.

  • M Sch.

    Oh to have the liberty to even think about this. Try keeping it 50/50 when kids come, nay twins. Signed a non-military feminist, desperately pushing to maintain 50/50. You know who.

  • Tips From The Homefront

    When I stopped working we agreed that the house and kids were my job and the Navy was his. With that said, he does help A LOT with our children and will cook and clean the kitchen. He also takes care of our cars and keeps the garage clean. It works for us…. But, I have told him that if (or when) I go back to work we will be getting a housekeeper or he needs to really step it up in the housework. It was one of the driving issues that lead me to leave my job.

  • Guest

    We divide it somewhat evenly. I cook all the meals and he does the dishes. I do the laundry and we both fold. He is solely in charge of trash, anything involving his uniforms, and lawn care and I hire someone for the lawn when he is not home. I am solely in charge of sweeping, mopping, bathrooms, and most things for the children. Vacuuming is a group effort because my toddler and baby are mortally terrified of the vacuum so someone has to run interference. Working on getting my toddler to help out more efficiently.
    I’m pretty happy with how we have it divided and I am lucky that he is so willing to help out.

  • Rquick

    We divide it pretty good about 70/30 since I stay home. We also sit down every sunday and come up with a list of things that HAVE to get done whether it be giving the dogs a bath or cleaning out the fridge. We usually decide 10 items that need to be done and each do one a day on top of our chores and it has helped out tremendously. Things IMO will never be 50/50 but that fine as long as each person is happy with their arrangement.

  • Heather

    When I was a SAHM it was 80/20 as far as household “chores”. Though he has always taken care of the home outside when he is home. Now that I work M-F like he does we pretty much do what has to be done as we see it. We do have two teenagers who we have help out as well. Our 7 year old is required to keep his room picked up and helps clear the table after dinner, stuff like that. DH does cook more often then me because he enjoys it, I do not. lol Because of that he has become a better cook then me over the years. We thought about having someone come in once a week to do floors, bathrooms, etc, but we just never really pursued it.

  • Amanda

    Ashlee, I am in the same boat. When I was a SAHM I could understand the majority of the work falling to me, since I was home all day. But now that I work fulltime, take college classes and have to get the kids ready every morning for daycare, I would like a little help. But do I get it?? NO! I have started to resent him as well. Her will make something and leave the counter a mess, right after I have cleaned it. He comes home and goes to the computer and looks up whatever it is he is looking up. Now, to be fair, when I have the chance, I will hop on the computer and play games as well, and I can loose track of time doing that as well. But when i do ask for help, its like pulling teeth. I know it was my choice to start working, I was REALLY TIRED of sitting at home all day once both the kids were in school all day. It doesn’t mean that my job is less important than his simply because he is the higher paid worker.